|Highfield Road Gospel Hall caught on tape in conflict with gay neighbors|
Highfield Road Gospel Hall Toronto has been in the news for a video that was posted online from a conflict between a group of neighbors and a group of people from the church.
The street preaching was interpreted by some neighbors as "an attack", "a protest" or a "method to drive out gays from their neighborhood". "Messages of hate" and "homophobic" as other descriptions appeared on blogs across the internet. Predictably comments from Christians and gays alike condemned the group for its perceived attacks.
To the credit of journalists Daniel Dale and Jesse McLean, from The Star, interviews were conducted with people from both sides of the street to try to shed some light on what the two groups were saying. In the article Viral video in Leslieville is not what it seems , the reports show that the church was not, and never has used its sermons, singing or prayers as weapons in the culture war.
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“I don’t like how the whole issue is being distorted,” said Blair Chiasson, a civil servant who lives with his partner, Paul Collins. “Nothing happened. Nothing happened.”
Christine Oddy was on her porch when she heard a sermon which featured, she said, “something about blood running down the street, souls going to purgatory.” She approached the parishioners. “You are hateful people, that’s what you are,” she can be heard saying on the video.
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Some churches try to target gays with provocative statements that are meant to enrange and belittle their opponents. Churches like Westboro Baptist are well known for proudly display signs saying hurtful and provocative things. However, the churches that meet in Gospel Hall buildings are careful to refrain from political involvement or name calling.
The debate now has turned to whether or not preaching on the street is a right or an annoyance. In a follow-up article, reporter Jessica McLean asks the question - A righteous disturbance or a democratic right?
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